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Listeriosis: Restaurants respond to the crisis

Since Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Sunday that the source of the listeriosis outbreak had been traced, major retailers have pulled dozens of products from their shelves. But how are restaurants affected? And what should they – or you – do in the event that you have some potentially contaminated meat in your kitchen?

ICYMI:

The listeriosis outbreak that has killed 180 and infected almost 1000 people has been traced to Enterprise’s Polokwane facility, Minister Motsoaledi announced on Sunday. Listeriosis was also found at the Germiston branch, as well as one Rainbow Chicken facility in the Free State. Retailers including Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Boxer and Shoprite have pulled dozens of products from their shelves, and consumers who return recalled products will receive compensation.

How are restaurants responding?

Processed meat forms a large part of menus for some restaurants, especially at the quick service end of the spectrum. Many of the bigger groups have begun to make public statements on social media to confirm that their supply chain is not compromised.

Sandwich Baron said that their suppliers have assured them their product range is not affected.

Kota Joe posted a similar announcement.

Roman’s Pizza posted similar reassurances, adding that their pizzas are prepared at 265 degrees Celsius for around five to six minutes, making it unlikely that bacteria would survive. (The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says that all bacteria are killed at temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius.)

Nando’s responded to the crisis via a Facebook post, confirming that they use unprocessed chicken and added a promise that they will let consumers know if there is ever a problem.

But while the food at many restaurants may well be safe, it seems likely that the crisis will be greeted by a slowing in business for restaurants that traditionally serve such products. Kota King’s Rhulani Shibambor told Stephen Grootes that, following the announcement, he was having a very slow day. He replaced implicated products with chicken fillets, rump steaks and burger patties. He was also creating videos showing how they prepare and store their food, so that customers can trust that their food is safe.

Makers of niche charcuterie and cold meats have also responded.

So what can you – and restaurants – do to ensure you’re protected?

At the media briefieng, the minister advised members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat. “While we know that polony is definitely implicated, there is a risk of cross-contamination of other ready-to-eat processed meat products, either at production, distribution or retail.” The minister went on to explain that listeria on the exterior packaging could be transferred to other products that are not cooked before eating.

So what should you do if you find a potentially contaminated product in your fridge? Remove it and either dispose of it carefully, wrapped up, or return it to the retailer so that it can be properly disposed of in a manner that will not endanger the lives of anyone who might find and consume it later on. Then the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) recommends the following:

“All persons who have had polony and other ready-to-eat meat products in their fridge should thoroughly clean and decontaminate their fridges, knives, cutting boards and kitchen surfaces. Shops (retailers) should thoroughly clean the shelves, fridges and surfaces where polony and ready-to-eat meat products are stored. Meat slicing machinery should be taken apart (dissembled), washed and disinfected.”

To clean, begin by washing thoroughly with warm water and soap, before cleaning with bleach.

“Mix one teaspoon of unscented bleach to one litre of water. Flood the surface with bleach and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Take apart the cutting machinery and soak it in bleach, so that the bleach gets everywhere – into all the cracks. It is important to clean refrigerators regularly and to clean hands and kitchen surfaces often.”

In addition, they recommend cleaning up all spills promptly, especially from processed food or raw meats, using paper towl rather than a reusable cloth towel that might harbour bacteria. They also recommend cleaning the walls and shelves of your fridge with warm water and soap, and with bleach and water once a month. Dish cloths and cloth grocery bags should also be washed often in hot water or the hot cycle of a washing machine.

Additionally, the City of Tshwane recommends lowering the temperature in your fridge and freezer.

Don’t forget the basic food hygiene rules, and if you run a restaurant or food business, ensure that all staff know the following guidelines from the NICD:

  • Thoroughly cook raw foods. All bacteria are killed at temperatures above 70 degrees Celsius.
  • Wash your hands before preparing food, before eating and after going to the toilet.
  • Wash raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating.
  • Separate raw and cooked food, and don’t mix utensils and surfaces when preparing food.
  • Wrap or cover foods with a sheet of plastic wrap or foil, put foods in plastic bags or clean covered containers before you place them in the refrigerator. Make sure that foods do not leak juices onto other foods.
  • Use leftover, pre-cooked and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible. The longer it’s stored in the refrigerator, the more chance listeria has to grow.

Can I get a refund?

If you think you might have affected produce, check out Pick n Pay’s full list of recalled products here. It includes certain variants of polony, Russians, viennas, polony, ham, bacon and sausages as well as roast beef, pastrami, silverside, kasseler, cabanossi and tongue. Also on the list are rolls filled with luncheon meats.

Woolworths has recalled certain variants of ham, viennas, salami, gammon, ham, cold meat, local chorizo and salami. The full list is below:

Shoprite has also promised a refund for all Enterprise processed meat products and Rainbow chicken polony for a full refund. Opened products and products without a receipt will also be accepted. The brand’s private label cold meats, sold under the Housebrand, Ritebrand and Farmer’s Deli brand names are not affected.

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